Words get coopted and their meanings distorted. I’ve always been vexed by the words “liberal” and “conservative.” It has always seemed to me that “liberal” had its roots in “freedom” and “conservative” had its roots in the “conserve” or “save.” Of course, we all know that both of these words have now taken on mostly political overtones. “Liberal,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary now means, among other definitions, “believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change.” It’s amazing to me how that definition came to be, as it seems so far from the word’s root. This dictionary also lists a few other definitions, including: “not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted,” as well as; “of or befitting a man of free birth,” which it labels as being archaic, and; “lacking moral restraint,” which it labels as being obsolete. When I think about the political world, I’m not so sure about this definition’s obsolescence.
The dictionary defines “conservative” as “believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society.” It goes on to define a person who is “conservative” as “one who adheres to traditional methods or views” or; “a cautious or discreet person.”
I wonder – Can one be liberal and conservative? I think I may be. I definitely am not opposed to new ideas or ways of being or behaving that are not necessarily traditional or widely accepted. I also feel like I want to always act in a manner befitting a man of free birth. At the same time, I am also a believer in traditional values, and admire those who act discreetly and maintain a level of caution.
I do know this: today’s Democratic Party ideas including big government and redistributionist policies are not liberal in the sense that they are not new ideas, nor are they ones befitting men and women of free birth. I’m not exactly sure what the Republican Party’s ideas really are, so I can’t exactly critique those, but many of its leaders also seem committed to big government.
Maybe someone ought to launch a new party called the Liberal Conservative Party. I’d join that one.